Last night I was talking with my dad (My Dad Is My Best Friend … Something I Would Have Not Guessed In A Million Years When I Was A Teenager) about Movies and the propensity of Hollywood to make remakes–bad remakes–and we have a suggestion for Hollywood.
Let’s Stop the Madness and Get Back to Creating!!
Allow me to qualify this statement some because I am sure the first thing someone will say is that by making a remaking they are creating. The problem is that they are not creating good movies but poor to horrible displays of writers who have no idea about the original material with only a few very rare exceptions (like J.J. Abrams Star Trek more on this one later). As my father and I spoke, we are all for making movies that expand current previously made movies (or television shows) and if done right made into franchises (multi-movie properties). What we are not interested in is a lackluster attempt to just retell the same story with a new writer’s attempt to be flashy that is hiding behind making it modern and darker when the reality is it is just bad.
So, how can Hollywood utilize existing movies and play in their universes and make more movies capitalizing on previous success while propelling the franchise forward? Well, I am glad you asked because my father and I have a few ideas.
1) First and foremost, no more remakes or reimagining or redoing or retelling or rebooting or re-whatever-ing. The original story has been told and it does not need retelling. In fact, the whole reason it was a hit was because it was told well, or well enough, the first time. I know that Hollywood doesn’t want to take chances, but if you want me to spend almost $15 at the theater (and another $30 when the Blu-Ray comes out) to see your new monstrosity then you need to invest in not wasting my time because I have yet to see a “re-telling” that has really worked. And the pubic does not need darker, grittier, and more modern, they need good storytelling and taking a preexisting product and just adding a twist to have your stamp on it is hurting more franchises than it is helping.
Then how can we capitalize on preexisting material? I am glad you asked.
2) Extend the story don’t redo it. We are much more interested in you extending the current storyline/universe than remaking it. As a writer, another writer can really impress me if he/she can take an established universe and create something new in it (examples like all the Star Trek books and Star Wars books that do this all the time without remaking anything). I believe that the reason that Hollywood does not do this is because it takes a really good writer to capture the original magic in a bottle and then create a completely new entity with its own magic while any writer at all can take a fully written story and just tweak it and call it done and new.
Also, to extend the existing universe of a story, you do not have to keep to the original characters and story or setting. A great concept that is being done in Role-Playing games by Fantasy Flight Games in the Star Wars universe that it created “Edge of the Empire”. This is not any of the main characters nor is it set at the core of the empire where one would run into the Emperor or Darth Vader or Boba Fett. Instead it is set on the fringe of the galaxy. They extended the franchise without remaking or redoing anything in a creative and unique way. If one was going to make a new Firefly movie, they could make one in the same universe as the Serenity and Captain Malcolm Reynolds with the Alliance and Browncoats. If they followed all of these rules and did it right it would be a hit or at least it would have a chance.
Allow me to give you an example that we discussed last night that might help.
The A-Team was a favorite in my house growing up. We watched all the episodes and really enjoyed the show. They recently remade it and we were excited. Especially when we first heard about the cast because we like the actors. We could not wait. And we were disappointed. Why? Because whomever wrote the remake didn’t understand the show. There was no chemistry in the mix. There was missing iconic lines and scenes. And it just flopped on what they added (read BA’s strange non-violence thing on the A-Team really??). To quote a line from one of my favorite movies, “Did you ever watch the show!”
So what could they have done following the established two rules already?
My dad and I thought about how to do an A-Team movie. To begin with, you have to understand that it is about the chemistry of the four main characters. Therefore, you need to create a team of four new characters who are military and work together. Do not redo the original and do not a geriatric version either. The original team was Army Rangers but in today’s world the crack commando units are Navy Seals. So you would create a team of four members (one who is a demolitions expert, one who is a vehicle expert, one who is a materials and requisition expert and one who is command who is a master at always coming up with a plan and all of them a jack of all trades of sorts). To begin to establish a connection, you need to have this team be accused of a crime (say in the Iraqi stuff) that they did not commit. To further connect to the original show, they are brought before a military tribunal that is chaired by none other than General Templeton “Face” Peck (yes the now General from the original show). You could have a discussion between the team and their appointed JAG lawyer that they have a chance because General Peck was himself accused of a crime and had to work for years to get his name and his team’s name cleared. Now we have established a direct link to the original but have modernized and move the story forward. The tribunal finds them guilty and they are sentenced to life in prison. General Peck works behind the scenes (having not agreed they were guilty and had a gut feeling they were set up) to help them escape. Then a great reveal scene in a barn where the team discovers that General Peck is there to help them. Peck lights a cigar and says to them about their elaborate and huge escape, “I love it when a plan comes together!” A HUGE tie into the original show. When the team asks Peck “How in the world can we get our names cleared,” he response that they “Have to be on the jazz!” (another HUGE tie into the original) and then explains what that means (the speech given in one episode about having to think of yourself as dead already that way nothing can hurt you but more important nothing can stop you) and again tie into the original show. At this point, we now follow the team as they attempt to clear their name which even though they expose the bad guy do not actually get cleared to set up for a franchise sequel.
This brings me to another point.
3) Utilize the FANS! Why would this version of the A-Team been cool and probably a blockbuster, because it well was designed by fans. Fans know the show typically inside and out and they are the best resource one can have for the show (short of the original show runner/writer). Today, it seems that Hollywood through the disaster of these movies a do not respect the fans at all. In this day and age, I could easily see where a studio announces that they are going to work on franchise X. Open a website for the franchise and the new movie they intend to make. Put the word out everywhere (fans are already listening and watching, because “we fans know everything!”). Here is where the big change would occur. Create a portal for fans of the show to submit storyline ideas on how to expand, extend and continue the franchise. If you have ever read some of the amazing fan fiction, seen some of the fan films or ever been to a convention you can see that fans really can come up with some amazing ideas. All the fans would sign whatever agreements needed so that if their idea is chosen they don’t sue or anything. And submissions could be anything from outlined ideas to scripted scenes to full featured scripts. Then the screenwriter talks with the director and studio people about which ideas are best and fashions a script out of that. If you really want to rock the fans offer credit in the credits for anyone who had an idea that was used. The point is get the people who you want to target who are going to watch involved in helping to make the new movie the best it can be. I guarantee that this will create nothing but positive Buzz for the movie and for the studio who cares about the fans. And I bet if one studio did this they would get enough ideas for at least a half-dozen movies in the franchise because fans know what they love and know where it would be good directions to head.
4) Do your homework. Know the original show. J.J. Abrams was so successful with Star Trek because he did his homework. He got the chemistry between the characters. He made sure to include (and sometimes update) iconic lines. He dropped in tons of an Easter eggs that fans have drooled over. Sure not everyone was happy but you will never make everyone happen. But he did it right. He did not redo or remake the movie with his time travel event that created a new timeline. He extended the original story base and did it in a way that connected with fans. All because he did his homework. If you are going to take anything and add to it, you have to do your homework and then it has a chance to be great.
If you do all of these things then you will have a hit on your hands that the fans will love and will feel a part of and will look forward to the next one. But if you continue with what you are doing, then all you are going to get is a mess of sloppy done movies that will continue to drive fans and movie-goers from theaters.
And this all is out of a conversation with my dad last night!
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